Nature of Place Symposium
Feb. 19 – 20, 2020

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Pittsburgh, PA

A Symposium About Biophilia

The implications of biophilia extend across a vast array of disciplines including design and engineering, nutrition, psychology, public health, education, biology and the humanities. Biophilia is expressed all over the world every day, through complex collaborations such as the design and construction of buildings and landscapes; and intimate, personal encounters including nature hikes and home gardening.

Since 2013, Phipps has held a monthly Biophilia: Pittsburgh gathering to bring creative minds together for learning, exploring and strengthening the bonds between people and the natural world. At Phipps’ first Nature of Place Symposium, this concept finds a new expression as leaders across disciplines come together to discuss the influence and impact of biophilia on their work and the work of the future. The event will include an opening reception and keynote speaker on the evening of Wed., Feb. 19 and a day of presentations and panels on Thurs., Feb. 20. 

The goals of the Nature of Place Symposium are to explore the human experience of biophilia, highlight the values and importance of the concept of a biophilic city, and build excitement and appreciation for the importance of green space in cities. We are interested in sharing with a broad variety of audiences, including scientists, physicians, architecture and green building professionals, community officials and organizers, educators, and students.

Biophilia refers to our innate human connection to nature — literally our love of life and living things. This concept was popularized by ecologist E.O. Wilson, and over the past few decades, significant research has emerged that confirms the importance of human connections to the natural world and the incorporation of biophilic design into our built environment. Our connection to nature impacts human health and well-being, and it touches on culture through spirituality and traditional ecological knowledge. In acknowledging these links, this symposium will explore biophilia through the perspectives of sense of place, health and wellness, spirituality and equity, and access to nature.

Keynote Speaker: Michelle Kondo, Ph.D.

Dr. Kondo is a Research Social Scientist with the USDA Forest Service. She holds academic degrees in civil engineering and urban planning, and obtained postdoctoral training in environmental health and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research examines environmental strategies, including place-based, nature-based and clinical interventions, for disease, violence, and injury prevention with a focus on low-resource urban communities.

Featured Speakers

Will W. Adams, Ph.D. – Associate Professor of Psychology, Duquesne University
Timothy Beatley, Ph.D. – Professor, School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Sonja Bochart, IIDA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP – Principal, Biophilic Design Consultant, Shepley Bulfinch
Plaxedes T. Chitiyo, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, Environmental Science, Center for Environmental Research and Education, Duquesne University
Hanareia Ehau-Taumaunu, M.S. – Ph.D. Candidate, Dept. Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, Pennsylvania State University
Rebecca Kiernan, MSPPM, LEED Green Assoc. – Principal Resilience Planner, City of Pittsburgh   
Vivian Loftness, FAIA, LEED AP, CPHC – University Professor, School of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon University
Katilyn Mascatelli, Ph.D. – Ecopsychology Research Scientist, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens 

Each session will include a panel discussion to discuss the ideas and data presented by the speakers in each session. Stay tuned for a complete list of speakers and topics!


Register now through Fri., Jan. 17 to take advantage of an early-bird registration rate, which includes access to the opening reception and symposium.

Symposium and reception: $85 Early Bird Rate ($99 after Fri., Jan. 17)
Symposium only: $74
Reception only: $25

(must present current student ID at reception and symposium)
Symposium and reception: $39
Reception only: $15

Symposium registration includes a healthy lunch and light refreshments.

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The Phipps Research Institute for Biophilia and Science Engagement acknowledges the connection between human and environmental health. The institute studies the built and natural environments and their intersection with human health and wellness. 

Questions? Contact Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas at

Select photos © Paul g. Wiegman